Trade Minister Ed Fast calls TPP compensation reports 'speculation'
International Trade Minister Ed Fast is playing his cards close to the chest on details related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Speaking to CTV's Question Period, Fast refused to confirm reports that the deal, touted as one of the largest in history, could be wrapped as early as August.
"That’s still speculation. Some people talk about months. Remember, many different deadlines have been set," Fast said. "For our part, we are focused on the quality of the outcome for Canadians."
The Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a proposed free-trade agreement between 12 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand.
According to the federal government, the TPP countries represent a market of 792 million people, and a combined GDP of $28.1 trillion -- almost 40 per cent of the world’s economy.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper heralded the negotiations as "essential" to the Canadian economy. But not everybody is convinced.
Among those concerned are Canadian dairy and poultry farmers, who fear the TPP will hurt the system that regulates their product prices.
The supply-management system controls the prices of milk, eggs, cheese, and poultry by regulating how much of each product is produced domestically and placing tariffs on imports.
The U.S. is currently pushing for Canada to loosen the rules and open the market to more foreign products and more competition for domestic farmers. The farmers say that would hurt their livelihoods.
"If TPP goes forward and we do lose our supply management, it will affect the real fabric of rural Canada," said Peter Ruiter, a dairy farmer from south of Ottawa.
Reports earlier this week suggested the government may offset the TPP's impact by providing compensation packages to supply-managed industries affected by the deal.
But Fast also labelled that as "speculation."
Fast said the government is working for an outcome that will balance protecting farmers and opening up trade.
"What we’re hoping to do is produce outcomes across all sectors of our economy," he said. "That includes the agricultural sector, including the supply-management part of that sector."
Harper also touched on the topic Thursday, saying the government is "working to protect our system of supply management and our farmers in other sectors."
Canada already has free trade agreements with the U.S., Mexico, Chile and Peru, as well as several other countries not involved in the TPP negotiations. However, due to the scope of the TPP, it is considered one of the biggest trade deals in history.
With files from CTV’s Question Period and CTV’s Katie Simpson